"A Mesolithic favourite": The hazlenuts eaten by hunter-gatherers 8,000 years ago in Scotland

By Ben Miller | 02 November 2015

Prehistoric people on the edge of Scotland would have eaten hazlenuts 8,000 years before archaeologists found them

A photo of burnt hazlenut shells found at a mesolithic hunter-gatherer site in Scotland
© Dan Lee
Hungry hunter-gatherers are thought to have eaten these hazlenuts during the Mesolithic period, around 8,000 years ago. They have been discovered by archaeologists carrying out the first excavation for 20 years at Staffin Bay, on the edge of northern Scotland.

A photo of burnt hazlenut shells found at a mesolithic hunter-gatherer site in Scotland
© Dan Lee
Mesolithic people lived off the wild resources of the Isle of Skye land and sea. Bone and hundreds of flints have also been discovered.

A photo of burnt hazlenut shells found at a mesolithic hunter-gatherer site in Scotland
© Dan Lee
“We have found lots of fragments of charred hazelnut shells in the lower soil samples,” says Dan Lee, of the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute. “They are the ideal thing to date as they have a short life span and were a Mesolithic favourite.

A photo of burnt hazlenut shells found at a mesolithic hunter-gatherer site in Scotland
© Dan Lee
“There is so much material in the samples we took that we will not be able to process them all with the current budget, but all is pointing to lots of potential to go back for another phase and include them in that. We have what we need for now, to allow us to date the Mesolithic activity at the site.”

A photo of burnt hazlenut shells found at a mesolithic hunter-gatherer site in Scotland
© Dan Lee
What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Three places to discover Scotland's history in

Skara Brae Prehistoric Village, Orkney
Within the stone walls of the best-preserved prehistoric village in northern Europe are stone beds, dressers, seats and boxes for provisions, recesses for personal possessions and a hearth where dried heather, bracken or seaweed was burned.

Stirling Castle
Without doubt one of the grandest of all Scottish castles, both in its situation on a commanding rock outcrop and in its architecture. The views from the castle rock are spectacular.

Museum of Edinburgh
The current exhibition, Roman and Dark Age Cramond, looks at the Roman occupation and Dark Age bodies found at a bathhouse, as well as the forensic science behind archaeological investigation such as Isotopic, DNA, forensic analysis and reconstructions.
Latest comment: >Make a comment
On thing is for sure. Whoever cooked and ate them, certainly was not Scottish or Pictish
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